Do you experience pain when you stand, strain, or lift heavy objects? If the answer to that question is yes then you might want to talk to your doctor to find out if you have a hernia. A hernia diagnosis will likely mean that you need surgery to treat it.
A hernia is a sac (formed by the lining of the abdominal cavity) that comes through a weak area or defect in the abdominal wall that is surrounded by the abdominal muscles. Essentially, hernias are protrusions of organs. Even though they sometimes only cause some mild discomfort, hernias can potentially grow larger and strangulate nearby blood vessels. When tissue is stuck inside the hole and its blood supply has been compromised, you will often need urgent surgery to fix this.
Some people can have a hernia without any symptoms, but if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should call your doctor:
- Groin pain, swelling or a bulge
- A bulge or swelling near the belly button
You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms:
- A painful hernia that cannot be pushed back gently through pressure into the abdomen
- Nausea, vomiting, or a fever with a painful hernia
- A hernia that is dark red, dark purple, or discolored
You can also contact one of the Beverly Hills general surgeons on staff at La Peer Health Systems. Our surgeons were trained at some of the nation's finest institutions, and we employ innovative minimally invasive procedures where possible to aid with the prevention of complications and to minimize your recovery time.
Contact us by calling 855.360.9119 or fill out the contact form on the right side of your screen and someone from our office will be in touch with you shortly.
Types of Hernias
There are several different hernia types, and they are classified by where they occur in the body. They include:
- Femoral hernia
- Hiatal hernia
- Incisional hernia
- Inguinal hernia
- Umbilical hernia
A femoral hernia presents as a bulge just below the groin area in the upper portion of the thigh. Femoral hernias are more common in women than men. Hiatal hernias are located in the upper part of the stomach and occur when part of the stomach pushes up into the chest. Incisional hernias occur through scars from a past abdominal surgery. Inguinal hernias are the most common hernia and present as a bulge or pain in the groin. They are more likely to occur in men than women. Inguinal hernias can go all the way from the groin into the scrotum. Umbilical hernias are bulges near the belly button, and they are caused when naval area muscle doesn't close completely.
Causes & Symptoms
Unfortunately, a lot of affected people will not notice any signs of a hernia. The symptoms that most often appear include discomfort and pain, which can worsen when standing, straining, or lifting heavy objects. Other patients complain of growths that feel tender or are, in fact, growing.
Similarly, there is also usually no obvious cause of hernias. Sometimes they can occur with heavy lifting, straining on the toilet, and other activities that cause pressure inside of the abdomen. Some patients are predisposed to hernias due to a family history of them.
A lot of babies are born with hernias. This is usually caused by a weakness in the fetal abdominal wall. Approximately one out of 20 children have inguinal hernias (occurring more in boys than girls), but they might not experience any symptoms until adulthood. Basically, the hernia might be present at birth, but not become noticeable until later on life.
Once the hernia is discovered, it is important to get it treated so as to avoid complications.
Untreated Hernia Complications
Some types of hernias, inguinal hernias, for instance, might not need surgery. For the types of hernias, surgical repair will be needed to prevent unwanted complications. Serious complications from untreated hernias include gangrene, organ dysfunction, and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome.
There is also sometimes increased risk of bowel obstruction and strangulation of vessels when hernias cannot be reduced in size or pushed back into place. This complication is known as incarceration.
Other possible complications for untreated hernias include:
- Autoimmune problems
- Obstruction of a cavity or tube (i.e. bowel obstruction in intestinal hernias)
When Surgery Is Necessary
Surgery is currently the only way to treat or permanently fix a hernia. However, some cases might lead a doctor to avoid surgery. One reason to avoid surgery is if it's too risky for the patient dude to medical problems. Another reason could be that the hernia is small and not causing symptoms. In those cases, the doctor will monitor it to make sure it does not grow or cause any future symptoms.
However, surgery is the preferred method to treat hernias that fit the following conditions:
- The hernia is getting bigger.
- The hernia is painful.
- The hernia cannot be reduced without surgery.
- The hernia has a trapped piece of your bowel movements.
Minimally Invasive Hernia Surgery
In the past, hernia surgery was performed with one large open incision. Today, hernia repair can be performed through minimally invasive laparoscopy. A laparoscope has a camera attached so that the doctor need not open up the abdomen to see inside. The camera relays to a TV monitor in the operating room that the surgeon can use to see inside of the abdomen. Other small incisions are made to insert the surgical instruments needed to perform the hernia repair operation.
Laparoscopy has its advantages over traditional open surgery because of small surgical cuts, traditionally faster recovery times, and reduced pain post-operation. It is also just as effective a means to treat hernias. One of the major complications of hernia surgery, chronic grown pain, reduced greatly through the usage of laparoscopic surgery, due to its minimally invasive nature.
Types of Hernia Repair Surgeries
Hernia surgeries close holes and secure weakened abdominal wall tissue. These procedures close hernias with cloth patches that plug up holes in the abdominal wall. The hernia contents in the abdominal cavity are replaced and the defect repaired. A prosthetic material is usually fitted to allow for a safe repair.
One type of hernia operation, known as a herniotomy, involves the removal of just the hernia sac and does not repair the inguinal canal. A herniotomy can be reinforced with the repair of the inguinal canal wall with the patient's own tissue (autogenous material) or a prolene mesh (heterogenous material). This is known as herniotomy procedure.
Uncomplicated hernias are repaired by an operation called herniorrhaphy. This surgical procedure pushes back ("reduces") the herniated tissue and then mends the weakness in muscle tissue. If any complications of the hernia have indeed occurred then the general surgeon will check the viability of the herniated organ and resect it, if necessary.
Muscle reinforcement techniques can also be implemented, using synthetic material (mesh) and placing it either over the defect or under it. Staples can be used to keep the mesh in place.
There are several options for patients facing hernia surgery. Our board certified general and general surgeons will recommend the best hernia repair surgery for your unique situation.
Recovery from Hernia Surgery
Patients who have received treatment for a hernia usually have good outcomes. Patients at outpatient surgery centers, like La Peer, can usually return to work within a week or two of surgery, however, more intensive activities will likely be limited for a longer period of time.
Complications from surgery can occur. These complications include:
- Hernia recurrence
- Chronic pain
- Nerve, blood vessel, and nearby organ injuries
Your doctor will work with you throughout your recovery to ensure that all is done to prevent these complications. That is why it is very important to make sure that an experienced general surgeon performs your hernia repair surgery.
Contact a Hernia Repair Specialist
As you can see, surgery is often very necessary to treat and repair hernias, but that these procedures possess many possible complications. Therefore, you are going to want a specialist with years of training, who implements the latest innovative and minimally invasive surgical procedures available.
That is why you should contact the Department of General Surgery at La Peer Health Systems. Our doctors attended some of the nation's finest medical schools and are now looked at as leaders in the field of general surgery. We possess the experience necessary to treat your condition and limit the side effects. You can reach us by phone (855.360.9119), email, or by filling out our contact form.
We look forward to treating your hernia and helping return you back to full health.
Eiman Firoozmand, M.D. is an attending surgeon in the Division of Colorectal Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. readmore
Liza M. Capiendo, M.D. is an Attending Physician at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. She is an active member of the teaching faculty readmore
Stephen Yoo, M.D. is an Attending Surgeon at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. He is an active member of the teaching faculty readmore
Gary H. Hoffman, M.D. is an Attending Surgeon and instructor in the Division of Colorectal Surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. readmore